The Council on Foreign Relations is the clubhouse of America’s establishment, a land of pinstripe suits and typically polite, status-quo thinking. Yet today CFR will publish a report that examines the national-security impact of America’s broken education system—and prescribes school choice as a primary antidote. Do you believe in miracles?…
The military can’t tap the 25% of American kids who drop out of high school, and 30% of those who graduate can’t pass the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery. In Afghanistan, according to one report cited by CFR, 33 of 45 U.S. officers in positions requiring foreign-language skills weren’t proficient by State Department standards.
The good news is that this grim data is helping to change the education debate, moving away from the dogma that fixing schools requires more money. Even excluding teacher pensions and other benefits, per-pupil spending today is more than three times what it was in 1960 (in 2008 dollars).
The CFR reports says this “suggests a misallocation of resources and a lack of productivity-enhancing innovations. . . . U.S. elementary and secondary schools are not organized to promote competition, choice, and innovation—the factors that catalyze success in other U.S. sectors.”
Spoken like Milton Friedman, but now endorsed by a Council task force led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York schools chief Joel Klein, who is an education executive at News Corp., which owns this newspaper. The authors also include former Fortune 500 executives, leading researchers, and even Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers….
Five members out of 30—including Ms. Weingarten, no surprise—offer dissenting views with familiar complaints that charter schools can’t grow “to scale” and that private vouchers undermine the ethos of common schooling. As if failing public schools don’t undermine far more.
But the real story is how much progress the reform movement has made when pillars of the establishment are willing to endorse a choice movement that would have been too controversial even a few years ago.